If you spend as much time walking around parks as I do, eventually your feet will get sore and your back will start to hurt. Make sure you’re taking breaks or you could end up like today’s featured character-The Crooked Man! Before we knew about things like spinal curvature disorders or sciatica, we were entertained as children with tales of Crooked Men, living in crooked houses with crooked cats chasing crooked mouses.Today we’ll celebrate the simpler times when back pain was the stuff of kid’s stories, and not a reality of our lives! First up the silly crooked man from Storybook Land in New Jersey. Here he lives in his little green house. almost makes you smile, even though his contorted body appears to be in extreme pain! He must have some good pain killers. Are they causing him to hallucinate? It that kitten wearing a top hat and coat? Moving on. Next we’ll check in on our Friend from Storybook Forest in Ligionier, PA. This park is always very well taken care of, and as you can see from the our Crooked Man’s home, no detail was forgotten, from his pastel painted abode with a crooked lamp post leading up to his crooked entrance way, to the real wood interiors with uneven windows, pictures, and furniture. Everything here is pretty much perfectly imperfect. Something interesting that I realized when reviewing my photos is that the old man appears to have moved between my two visits. He used to lean against a fence in 2009, but by 2012, he was practically sitting on a some slate in an overgrown patch. Maybe he finally toppled over? Or maybe he just needed to rest his aching back. Looks like his (pregnant?) cat might have also run off. When we’re looking for creepy representations of Mother Goose, The Magic Forest never disappoints. Just about everything seems “off” about this scene. From the strange dancing animals, to the demonic dead yellow eyes of our Crooked Man. The best thing about this is that his house is a full size gravity house, where you can walk through and get that disorienting sense of confusion (as if you didn’t already have it after seeing these figures)
You might think that Storyland doesn’t have a crooked man, but look again! At the entrance he is hard at work as a park employee, building the entranceway! He even has a mailbox and his cat is helping direct the crowds!
The Enchanted Forest in the Adirondack Mountains has a very old man, with a very sore back living in an extremely colorful house. Still, despite the bright colors, something about the man’s face is just very sad. I suppose I see why some of the other artists opted for a silly looking man in their interpretations of this story!
Recently, I learned is that many of these houses were frustrations to carpenters trained to build things at 90 degree angles. Some legends tell of contractors who walked off the job at kiddie parks when asked to build thing so structurally unstable. One such tale occurred in Maryland’s now defunct Enchanted Forest. As Martha Anne Clark describes in her book “The Enchanted Forest, Memories of Maryland’s Storybook Park” “One particular challenge was the Crooked Man’s house “A carpenter hired to complete the job walked off saying it was impossible to build. It was eventually completed in spite of the difficulty in finding carpenters who could build a house requiring them to go against all of their training”
Which one is your favorite?